Archive for 2001

Colombia and Vietnam: Myth and Reality

Category: Armed Conflict, US Foreign Policy
By · September 10, 2001 · Comment

In mid-December, 1998, I interviewed Barry McCaffrey, Director of National Drug Control Policy, in his office diagonally across from the Old Executive Building. At the time I was in the early stages of research for my book, The Colombian Civil War. McCaffrey was gracious and eager to explain American policy. As the interview unfolded he went out of his way to praise the newly elected President of Colombia Andrés Pastrana for giving birth to the peace process and General Rosso José Serrano, the Chief of the Colombian National Police for his courageous performance in the war on drugs. However, as the interview progressed he turned solemn and expressed genuine grief for the surreal and staggering violence in Colombia. He then openly admitted, “We (the United States) are scared.” Read more»

Pastrana Shows ‘Disdain’ for the ELN

Category: Armed Conflict
By · September 3, 2001 · Comment

President Andrés Pastrana’s abrupt announcement that he had decided to suspend talks with the country’s second-largest rebel force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), left a new question mark hanging over the troubled efforts to end Colombia’s decades-old conflict with leftist guerrillas. Accusing the ELN of a “lack of interest” in the peace process, Pastrana made the surprise announcement in Bogotá on August 7 during a ceremony commemorating the 182nd anniversary of the Battle of Boyacá, which was decisive in the war of independence from Spain. Pastrana justified his move by referring to the “obstinate position of the ELN,” which had apparently rejected government proposals to get the talks back on track. Read more»

DynCorp: Beyond the Rule of Law

Category: War on Drugs
By · August 27, 2001 · Comment

Despite the fact that a company contracted by the U.S. government to carry out its program of fumigating and eradicating coca crops in Colombia has been caught smuggling heroin out of the country, no attempts have been made to bring it to justice. For more than a year the Office of Prosecutions has failed to render a decision on the case, while the police official responsible for setting the whole process in motion has since retired from active duty. This is not the first time a case against DynCorp employees has disappeared in the labyrinth known as Colombia’s judicial system. Read more»

Studies Show Coca Spraying Harms Health and Environment

Category: War on Drugs
By · August 20, 2001 · Comment

Studies conducted on both sides of the border between Ecuador and Colombia have raised an alarm about the health and environmental effects of spraying herbicide on coca crops in Colombia, but officials in both countries have dismissed the results. A study carried out between February and April by Colombian biologist Elsa Nivia in that country’s Putumayo department, and another done by the Quito-based environmental organization Ecological Action in May and June in Ecuador’s Sucumbíos province, indicate that spraying with the herbicide glyphosate is causing health problems and affecting non-drug crops. Read more»

BP Refuses to Compensate Peasants For Pipeline Damage

Category: Economics and Globalization, Human Rights
By · August 13, 2001 · Comment

BP’s Colombian oil pipeline companies are refusing to pay compensation claims of $850,000 to three hundred peasants. The peasants, from the region of Zaragoza in northern Antioquia, claim that two oil pipelines passing through their farms have caused extensive environmental damage, forcing them off their land. Meanwhile, BP sells the oil on the U.S. market for $10 million a day. Read more»

Colombians Protest Fumigation and Globalization

Category: Economics and Globalization, War on Drugs
By · August 6, 2001 · Comment

Last week’s demonstrations by Colombian farmers were the latest in a recent wave of protests to hit Colombia. Police used tear gas against thousands of demonstrators who had blocked highways throughout the country to protest their economic situation, the fumigation of illicit crops and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). These latest demonstrations follow on the heels of riots in June by coca workers in northern Colombia and nationwide marches by teachers, state workers and students to protest government budget cuts mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Read more»

Colombia’s Prison Crisis Reaches Breaking Point

Category: Human Rights
By · July 30, 2001 · Comment

A recent series of high-profile events has highlighted the serious crisis faced by Colombia’s penitentiary system. The deepening controversy surrounding the state of the country’s prisons forced the resignation of Fabio Campos Silva, director of the Colombian National Penitentiary Institute (INPEC), after new scandals shook the agency. Campos stepped down after about 100 inmates escaped from La Picota, a high-security jail in Bogotá, on June 23. The mass escape occurred after urban militias belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest leftist rebel army, blew a hole in the outside wall. Read more»